John Hastings – A Comic Prescription for Dry Bar Precision

Canadian comedian John Hastings has been leaving global audiences in splits with his rib-tickling comedy. Now Ottawa residents can chortle galore at his upcoming shows on June 21-22 and June 28-29 at the Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa West Comedy Club.

What does it take to be a successful comedian? Being born with a funny bone? Great comic timing? The ability to read the audience and tell relatable jokes? Or being able to combine the power of observation with making light of the everyday mundane? Well, John Hastings has all of the above in abundance. Describing himself as ‘bloated, excited and ready to comedy’, he has been entertaining audiences across the world for the past 18 years with his self-deprecating sense of humour, hilarious turn of phrase, quick-wittedness and high energy – with mischievous looks itching to get into trouble over some profanity or hilarious fart jokes.

Winner of the Montreal Just For Laughs (JFL) Comedy Festival 2010, recipient of the COCA Comedian of the Year award 2012, an Amused Moose Comedy Awards 2015 nominee and a Martin Sims Fringe Festival 2015 award nominee, 38-year-old Hastings has performed in 27 countries and appeared at every major comedy festival in the world including Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Perth Fringe World Festival and Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. He was also the only Canadian finalist of the 2011 San Francisco Comedy Competition and the youngest comedian to appear at the 2011 Winnipeg Comedy Festival. He has featured on BBC 1, BBC 3, BBC Radio 4, Comedy Central, CTV Australia Comedy Channel, and CBC The Comedy Network. Additionally, Hastings co-wrote the short film Who is Hannah (2015), which won both the People’s Choice Award and the Cinespace Jury’s Choice Award at the Lakeshorts International Film Festival 2016 and was later purchased by CBC.

If that career graph sounds impressive, Hastings’ background is even more illuminating.

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Who is John Hastings?

Hastings grew up in Westboro, Ottawa and attended Nepean High School before acquiring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, specialising in theatre from Concordia University, Montreal. He is also an alumnus of The Second City Conservatory Toronto. Hastings got into stand-up comedy in 2006 and did a few odd jobs working in coffee shops, kitchens and as a telemarketer before going professional in 2010. Describing his initiation into stand-up, Hastings says, “I had always loved Just For Laughs and once an ex-girlfriend took me to a stand-up comedy club. The comedians were so bad that I decided to give it a shot myself and realised it wasn’t that hard. My first set at ComedyWorks Montreal in 2006 went well, and then the bug bit me – there was no looking back after that.” Hastings describes his brand of stand-up comedy as, “Professional. Well-smelling appropriate use of grammar. Ironed t-shirt.” He adds, “When I decided to become a comedian, it was like all of us were making jokes, but I went pro, and everyone else got jobs.”

Of course, things haven’t been all that easy.

Hastings was born three months premature with dyspraxia (a neurological disorder that impacts an individual’s ability to plan and process motor tasks). Having no reflexes or eye-hand coordination meant that certain tasks were harder and more overwhelming than usual, as was dealing with teachers who didn’t acknowledge the disorder. However, rather than let that limit him, it instead made him wiser – case in point being his silencing of a school bully. “I once said a zinger to a bully and the whole class burst out laughing. He never bothered me again,” avers Hastings in one of his videos. In the same video, he also gratefully acknowledges being raised by a single mom whom he says, “managed to be around a lot despite working really long hours.” He credits his insights into Gen Z from his younger brother, with whom he shares an 18 years age gap.

On kickstarting his career in Ottawa, Hastings remarks, “If you’re going to go into comedy, Ottawa is a great place to come from because it’s just ludicrous. It’s minus 45 and plus 45 every year. It’s the only place where the weather is an interesting topic of conversation. It’s the most ridiculous suburb upon suburb upon suburb place ever. Nothing works, but it’s always promised to. All my life, I was told that one day Ottawa was going to get a mass transit system; now it has a mass transit system, and people are still waiting for it to work. You’ve never met more turbo hippies than people that work for the Canadian government and bald neighbours with long hair bringing you an eggplant from their garden, even though they live in an apartment.”

Hastings moved to London in 2012, where he lived for six years, before heading to Los Angeles, where he now resides with his two cats.


Memorable misadventures

While Hastings briefly became a viral sensation after being heckled by former US basketball star player, Dennis Rodman at the LA Comedy Store in 2016, his claim to fame was getting featured on America’s Got Talent in 2020 where he performed with no audience, just a day before the COVID lockdown began. Hastings describes the experience as “surreal”. Stuck in his apartment for months after that, he still feels that the forced pandemic break helped him refocus and enjoy stand-up in a post-pandemic world that much more.

Performing about 250-300 shows a year, Hastings enjoys making jokes at his own expense. One of his popular openings to describe himself goes, “I don’t look like any age, I just look like I’ve been through stuff.” That couldn’t have been more accurate. From almost getting killed when he fell on the road in front of a fast-approaching bus due to his bike’s handlebars snapping in two, to breaking his arm when a car hit his bike, to almost getting mugged twice at knife-point, Hastings has certainly been through a lot of ‘stuff’. However, he has always bounced back and used these unfortunate incidents as fodder for his jokes. When asked to recount his favourite anecdote from one of his shows, Hasting replies, “A comedy club owner once said to me, “over my dead body will you play at my comedy club.” And then he died six weeks later. And then his kids booked me until they sold the club.”


Upcoming performances

Hastings will be returning to Ottawa after two years to record a comedy special on June 21-22 and June 28-29 at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, a favourite comedy destination for both comedians and fans, alike. Hastings has performed at every single venue of the Yuk Yuks across Canada, yet performing in Ottawa is always special. “My first performance at a Yuk Yuk’s in Ottawa was in 2007. I love performing there. It’d be fun to see friends. The audience is always great. I’ve always wanted to film a special and record an album in my hometown. I hope people like it.” And what can audiences expect? “I’m going to be gorging on the fantastic garlic bread at Yuk Yuks just before the show. Expect heavy, deep garlic breath,” laughs Hastings wickedly.

After his Ottawa performances, Hastings has a slew of shows coming up in Texas and the United Kingdom, in addition to new YouTube specials. Hastings also currently has two podcasts—‘Anything Can Be A Podcast Podcast’ and ‘The Wrestler Review’—which he co-hosts with his friend and fellow comedian Dylan Gott every Sunday.

When he’s not prepping jokes, performing, travelling or making podcasts, Hastings listens to audiobooks while pretending to play air guitar to them. He also loves swimming, watching pro wrestling and biking. When asked about his choice of an alternate career profession, he retorts, “Comedy club owner. Bus driver. Cheese monger. In that order.”

So, what appeals to him most about stand-up comedy? “Oh, you know, I like it all. I like the closeness to the audience. I like being able to make people laugh. I like the hours. It’s all great. It’s all gravy,” he replies.

His advice to aspiring comedians is to, “Just go ahead and do it! If you like it, just keep going. While there may be struggles, they won’t feel so hard as long as you have fun and enjoy the process. Everything else is just noise.”

Hasting’s trump card is his ability to put a droll spin on tragic situations. Through every show, he emphasises the importance of chuckling away our troubles because the world is too serious anyway, and laughter is, after all, the best medicine. As the great comedian Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted”.

You can find John Hastings online at or on his social media: YouTube, Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, or Twitter.